Militia

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This picture of a Militia camp was taken in 1906 on the East Glacis outside Fort Regent by the prominent local photographer of the time Albert Smith and reproduced as a postcard, no doubt achieving good sales to members of the Militia who took part, and their families and others who visited during the duration of the camp. It shows militiamen lining up in threes outside their tents, ready for drill practice. And notice what perfectly straight lines those circular tents were arranged in. At that time militia service and attendance at an annual camp was compulsory for all men between the ages of 17 and 35. Only eight years after this picture was taken many militiamen, undoubtely including some of those photographed, would leave the island, some never to return, to fight for their country in the Great War



This page is based on Norman Wood's website on the Jersey Militia.

F

rom early times Jersey must have had some force for repelling invasion. In 1337 at the beginning of the Hundred Years War with France, this was remodelled. Edward III ordered the Wardens to enrol all able bodied men, to divide them into companies, to provide them with arms, and appoint officers. For the next three centuries the organisation was parochial, each parish having its own company.

  • Beaumont Cannon, the story of a St Peter gun and the structure of the Militia in its early days
Artillery was always a major element of the Militia

Uniforms

In 1665 these companies were united into three regiments, the East, the North, and the West. In 1678, for the first time, the men were put into uniform, red musketeers' cloaks. The Artillery was made a separate corps in blue cloaks lined with scarlet.

Five regiments

In 1730 there were five regiments made up of six battalions: 1st - St Ouen, St Mary, St John 2nd - Trinity, St Martin 3rd - St Saviour, Grouville, St Clement 4th - 1st/4th St Helier 2nd/4th St Lawrence 5th - St Peter, St Brelaide

A ceremony in the Royal Square in 1905 for the presentation of medals to the Militia

Compulsory service

By the code of 1771 there was compulsory service for all males between the ages of 17-35 and youths between 15-17 had to drill once a week. At this time there was one regiment of artillery, one of cavalry and six battalions of infantry in addition to the regular troops in the castles.

RMIJ

On 6 January 1831 on the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Jersey the entire Channel Island Militias were granted the 'Royal' prefix by King William IV. At this time all the Militia insignia was changed in accordance with the 'Royal' title, including uniforms which now had blue facings. In 1844 the Parish Arsenals were built and the cannon removed from the parish churches. In the mid-1860s a Troop of Horse existed, known as the Royal Jersey Militia Dragoons. They carried messages on horseback between the regiments and wore black leather helmets with a black horse-hair plume and red tunics. The Troop was disbanded in the 1870s. Also at this time rifle companies existed. They wore the 1861 'quilted' shako but were short-lived and were disbanded when the Militia was reorganized once again in 1877.

A silver Militia badge from 1780

Three regiments

There were then three infantry regiments with 500 NCO's and men, each under a Lieutenant-Colonel. These were as follows:

1st - made up of old St Lawrence and 5th (South) 2nd - made up of old 2nd (North) and 3rd (East) 3rd - made up of old St Helier and residents of St Lawrence (ex 4th)

Battle honour

By General Order of 1881 from Her Majesty Queen Victoria the Battle Honour 'Jersey 1781' was granted to the following Militia Regiments, 1st (West), 2nd (East) and 3rd (South).

The Militia was reorganized yet again in 1890 into two field artillery companies, four garrison artillery companies and three light infantry battalions, West, Town and East.

A silver Militia spoon

Mutiny

In 1891 there was a mutiny by Militiamen of the St Ouen section as they were not allowed to parade in their lawful position on the right of the line as had been previously accorded them. This mutiny was not due to disloyalty but to injured pride. A contingent of the Royal Jersey Militia took part in the Empire Parade in London on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Diamond (60th) Jubilee on 22nd June 1897.

The Militia came under the Army Act in 1905 and at this time it consisted of the Royal Jersey Artillery with two field batteries and two garrison companies, a Corps of Militia Engineers, a Militia Medical Company and three battalions of Light Infantry.

Mobilisation

The Militia was mobilized in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War and on 2nd March 1915 the Jersey Overseas Contingent consisting of 6 Officers and 224 Other Ranks under Captain, later Lieutenant Colonel, Stocker proceeded overseas to serve with the 7th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles. During the First World War 6,292 Jerseymen served in HM Forces, 862 were killed in action or died of wounds. During the First World War the Militia also provided part of the guard for the German Prisoner of War camp at Blanches Banque, St Brelaide, in Jersey. In 1918 at the end of the war the Jersey Militia was demobilized and was subsequently was granted the Battle Honour 'The Great War 1914-1918'.

On 24th December 1921 a new law was passed reducing the Militia to just one Regiment entitled 'The Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey'. In 1925 new colours were presented and the old ones laid up in the various Parish Churches. Compulsory service was ended in 1929 and the strength reduced to just 260 men, the cost was to be borne by the States of Jersey and not the British Government.

Militia artillery unit

World War 2

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War the Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey (RMIJ) was mobilized once more and assembled at the Town Arsenal (now Jersey Fire Station) and marched to Fort Regent, overlooking St Helier, which became their Headquarters. On 2nd June 1940 the British Government recalled all the regular troops from the Channel Islands and on 20th June Lieutenant-Colonel H.M. Vatcher MC upon receiving orders for the demilitarization of the island informed the Lieutenant-Governor that he had been recalled and the island would be undefended. He therefore requested permission for the RMIJ to leave the island to fight overseas. Permission was granted and at 3.00pm on 21st June 1940 11 Officers and 193 Other Ranks left for England on the potato ship SS Hodder. The German Forces subsequently invaded the Channel Islands on 1st July 1940 where they remained in occupation for almost five years. The first Germans to arrive in Jersey were in an aircraft from Aufklarungsgruppe 123 a Luftwaffe Reconnaissance Squadron.

The RMIJ initially served as the 11th (Royal Militia Island of Jersey) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment and although the 11th Battalion did not leave the UK many members of the original contingent served in various theatres of the war, including Africa, Italy, Holland and France. Of the original 193 men who left the island in 1940 ten were killed in action.

On 8th May 1945 the Royal Navy sent HMS Bulldog & Beagle to the Channel Islands as part of Operation Nestegg in order to accept the German surrender. On 9th May 1945 Force 135 (Channel Islands Liberation Force) led by Colonel William P.A. Robinson MC of the Royal Artillery and his Adjutant Captain Hugh Le Brocq (RMIJ) landed at the harbour. They advanced to the Pomme D'Or Hotel where the Jersey Harbour Master Captain H.G. Richmond raised the Union Jack ending the German occupation of Jersey.

On 14th February 1946 the War Office advised the Lieutenant-Governor that the 11th (RMIJ) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment was being disbanded and as the National Service Act was not adopted in the Channel Islands the RMIJ ceased to exist. On 10th January 1954 the Regimental Colours were laid up in the Town Church.

A militia camp on Glacis Field

Territorial field squadron

In 1986 the British Government requested that Jersey should contribute towards the Defence Budget of the United Kingdom and the Field Squadron Royal Engineers (Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey) Territorial Army was formed in October 1988. The role of the Squadron was later changed from a Field Squadron to a RAF Harrier Force Support Squadron. In 1995 on the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation of Jersey the Squadron was granted the 'Privilege' by the States of Jersey this is the equivalent to granting the freedom of the city. The Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey Association meet regularly throughout the year and is supplemented by members of the Field Squadron ensuring that the Association will continue for many years to come. Thus, the Royal Jersey Militia in its various forms has had a long and varied history.

An official Militia photograph on Grouville Common during the First World War

Further articles


Picture gallery

We chose this image as our Picture of the year for 2015, the best of many thousand photographs added to the site over the previous 12 months. It shows three pretty young ladies wielding rifles? What on earth was going on? The answer lies in the ropes attached to stakes between their legs. This photograph was undoubtedly taken in front of a tent at a Militia camp, probably in the first decade of the 20th century. It was standard practice for each camp to stage an open day when wives and other family members were invited to visit and see what their menfolk were doing at their annual camp. The quality of the outfits these young ladies were wearing leads us to suspect that they were the daughters of officers and they were clearly delighted to pose with their fathers' rifles, or those borrowed from other soldiers. The quality of the picture suggests that it was not a family snapshot but was taken by one of the professional photographers who made good money out of taking commemorative pictures at these camps, which were held either on the slopes outside Fort Regent at Les Quennevais in the west of the island, or Grouville Common in the east

Click on any image to see a larger version

26 July 2011

There is a stark contrast between these two pictures taken only a few months apart. The top picture shows the Royal Jersey Militia marching through the streets of St Helier in 1939. Not many weeks had passed before the island had beeh occupied by German troops in the summer of 1940 and it was soldiers of the Wehrmacht who were marching through the streets of town. The upper picture was taken quite openly; the picture below was taken clandestinely through curtained windows. Discovery would have incurred a severe penalty for the photographer
GermansQueenSt.jpg
A militia camp at St Peter's Barracks, photographed by Ernest Baudoux
Militia parade - 1900
A Royal Square medal ceremony
Troops on parade at a 1906 camp
St Peter's Barracks, 1900
A militia camp on the East Glacis at Fort Regent
Militia officers pose informally for a group portrait
RJLI 3rd Regiment, 1897 - it was the fashion at the time to pose informally for what was actually a formal photograph

Militia infantrymen

It's sad that so many old photographs never had the names of the people in them written on the back. It's a perennial problem for family historians, and also for Jerripedia editors, who come across fabulous images such as this one taken at a Royal Militia Island of Jersey summer camp, probably in the first decade of the 20th century, and probably at Fort Regent. We do know that the men photographed were part of the 3rd Battalion (Light Infantry) but we know nothing more
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